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Opening Question

Think of a place you used to live while growing up. How easy is it to recall the layout, the sounds, smells and experiences you had there?


Just as the old covenant had a sanctuary to accompany the law, priesthood, and sacrifices, so does the new. The author of Hebrews draws on the Old Testament imagery and confirms an important truth found in Exodus 25: Israel’s sanctuary was a small-scale model based on plans shown to Moses. Those plans originated in heaven with God. That means that if Jesus serves as a priest, then the temple in which He serves must be parallel in some ways to the one given to Moses.

The Purpose of the Sanctuary

Read through Exodus 25:8-9, Leviticus 26:11-12, and Hebrew 8 and 9. According to these passages, the sanctuary served several roles:

  1. To provide a place for God to “dwell” with his people, to have a relationship with Him
  2. To enshrine the law of God centrally in the middle of the camp of Israel
  3. To prevent God from abhorring His people
  4. To provide a place for forgiveness
  5. To teach Israel about the blood of the sacrifice
  6. Others?

In many ways, the sanctuary is a living parable, a small-scale model of God’s lovingkindness, holiness, law and presence offset by the reality of Israel’s sin and need for constant forgiveness.

Does there need to be a literal sanctuary in heaven just like the one on earth, or is the sanctuary more about ideas and actions of God? Defend your answer from scripture.

According to Hebrews, the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin, so why did Israel need to offer them? What does this say about the need for a “better sacrifice”?

What makes Jesus’ sacrifice “better”? In what way is it truly able to cleanse the conscience from sin? Is there a literal cleansing or is it something else?

Many theologians argue for a “substitution” theology where Jesus takes the human’s place. How might Isaiah 53 or other passages support this theological view of the atonement? What might be arguments against it?

Sanctuary Limitations

Read through Solomon’s prayer in 1 Kings 8:22-66. Solomon in his wisdom admits several facts about the sanctuary. Most importantly here, though, is that it couldn’t “contain” God. Humans do not manipulate the divine in order to control it through buildings. Second, all the promises made to Moses happened just as God had said, thus the temple was likely to be defiled by Israel’s sins. Third, if Israel turned away from sin and back to God at His temple, He would hear and forgive, and restore them. Thus Daniel’s prayer of repentance in Daniel 9 is really a covenant fulfillment of Solomon’s prayer, as was his daily routine of prayer 3 times a day opening his windows for which he was thrown into the lion’s den. With Solomon’s prayer in mind, it’s easier to see why the prophecies of Daniel concerning the sanctuary would be so important to him.

What is the relationship between the sanctuary and God’s “name” in Solomon’s prayer?

The New Priest

There isn’t adequate space to speak about the new priesthood, but read through Genesis 14, Psalm 110, and Hebrews 5-7. The author Hebrews clearly believes that the new covenant needs a new priesthood, that the old priesthood’s limitations would never provide the ideal intercessor. Several of those limitations include the sinfulness of the earthly Aaronic priests, as well as their humanity that left them weak with age and ultimately dead and unable to intercede. But Christ’s ministry is better than Aaron’s.

Who was Melchizedek? What was his significance in the Old Testament?

After reading through theses passages, why couldn’t Jesus be a Levitical or Aaronic priest? Why did the Author of Hebrews believe Jesus was from the line of Melchizedek and a fulfillment of his typology?

How is the Melchizedekian priesthood perfectly suited for the New Covenant?

Closing Comments

The New Covenant Sanctuary, Sacrifice, and Priesthood reveals the providence and revelation of God thousands of years before He brought the fulfillment to pass in Christ.

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